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Agency: Natural gas contributing more to U.S. electrical power

Stephen Huba
| Monday, May 7, 2018, 2:27 p.m.
The natural gas-fired Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station in South Huntingdon is scheduled to be brought online in December and will supply power for up to 925,000 homes.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
The natural gas-fired Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station in South Huntingdon is scheduled to be brought online in December and will supply power for up to 925,000 homes.

Nearly 32 gigawatts of new electric generating capacity will come online in the United States in 2018, more than any year in the past decade and fed mostly by natural gas, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Monday.

Although renewable energy sources such as wind and solar accounted for 98 percent of the 2 gigawatts added so far this year (based on data for January and February), EIA expects about 21 gigawatts of natural-gas-fired generators will come online later in 2018.

If those generators all stick to their reported timelines for starting up, 2018 will be the first year since 2013 in which renewables did not make up a majority of added capacity, the EIA said.

In 2017, renewables accounted for 55 percent of the 21 gigawatts of U.S. capacity additions, the fourth consecutive year in which renewables made up more than half of the new generating capacity being added. As of February, renewables accounted for 22 percent of the nation's total generating capacity.

The newly added generating capacity in January and February included 2,029 megawatts of renewables, 27 megawatts of fossil fueled generators and 28 megawatts of other technologies, mostly consisting of energy storage batteries.

In February, for the first time in decades, all of the new generating capacity coming online was non-fossil-fueled (wind, solar, hydro and biomass), the EIA said.

About half of the 21 gigawatts of natural gas-fired generation capacity EIA expects to come online by the end of 2018 are combined-cycle units — which capture waste heat from a gas turbine to make steam for a second turbine — and will be added to the PJM Regional Transmission Organization, which spans parts of several Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states, including Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania plans to add 5.2 gigawatts, thanks, in part, to the 925-megawatt Tenaska Westmoreland Generating Station being built near Smithton in South Huntingdon.

The facility is expected to open in December and will provide enough power for about 925,000 homes.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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